Wednesday, December 12, 2018

The New Batman Adventures - "Girl's Night Out"

“An empty mall, an unguarded cash machine – who says life ain’t fair?”

A prisoner transfer from Metropolis goes sideways when Livewire (Lori Petty) escapes confinement and runs loose into Gotham City. Batgirl (Tara Strong) and Supergirl (Nicholle Tom) team up to recapture the electric supervillain, but in her escape Livewire teams up with Poison Ivy (Diane Pershing) and Harley Quinn (Arleen Sorkin) for a criminal shopping spree. 

In the final scene of this episode, it’s not a spoiler to say that Supergirl and Batgirl cap off their night of crimefighting and bonding in slippers and bathrobes, with their own pints of ice cream. If there’s a better analogy for how this episode is the animated equivalent of comfort food, I can’t come up with it. “Girl’s Night Out” (odd apostrophe placement, I know) is a real treat of an episode, fan service in its purest form. Last week’s episode might be a Top 10, and so too do I need to give this one some consideration. (Next week’s is a lock.)

It’s a little surprising for me to discover that Supergirl only appeared in three episodes of Superman: The Animated Series; even more startling is that Livewire only appeared in two. These two women loom so large in my memory of the show’s 54 episodes, possibly as a consequence of this episode, which throws together the best of two animated shows (which, recall, aired for a time as a one-hour block, The New Batman/Superman Adventures, on the Kids WB network). While there is something lightly discriminatory about pitting two women against three women, given the deep bench of villains Batgirl and Supergirl could have fought, I submit that we look at “Girl’s Night Out” as uniting the DC Animated Universe’s two greatest original creations – Livewire and Harley Quinn, both manic pixies with squeaky voices, too good to be bad but too bad to be good. It’s the perfect team-up of two perfect characters, just different enough to get on each other’s nerves.

This episode also revisits the Harley & Ivy dynamic that works so well. We saw a kind of trial run for this episode in “Holiday Knights,” when the pair abducted Bruce Wayne for a holiday shopping spree and murderous nightcap, so it’s a delight to see that the friendship persists, with Ivy as the gently indulgent den mother and Harley as the impulsive ball of energy. “She tries so hard,” Ivy laments as Harley whacks away at a locked door. Sorkin is in rare form as Harley, grunting her way through endless hammer strikes, gleefully acknowledging her own madness, and knocking herself out (whoopsie-daisy!) when she forgets that Supergirl is invulnerable. We have two more Harley episodes to go after this one, and she’s well on her way to going out on a high note.

One thing that ought not go without saying is that “Girl’s Night Out” is to be commended for an episode in which Batgirl and Supergirl’s friendship is assumed as a matter of course; they have no rivalry, no deep-seated resentment, and no hang-ups about working together. Indeed, they’re only jealous of the quotidian differences between them (namely, technology, farm life, and chores). It took Batman and Superman an entire movie to learn how to get along; it’s refreshing to see these two learning from their mentors’ mistake. While Batman is gruff and agitated at needing Superman’s help to take down Livewire, Supergirl is all too happy to step in for her famous cousin and make a night of it. 

In fact, this refreshing optimism is something from which The New Batman Adventures overall could have benefited. I had to keep checking this wasn’t a Paul Dini episode – it’s not, nor was Livewire’s debut – because the infectious brand of enthusiasm is Dini’s trademark approach to a universe as full of delights as this animated one. As dour and uncomfortably romantic as TNBA could be, it was episodes like this one that left us feeling good about the direction of the DCAU. Better, “Girl’s Night Out” is one of a number of episodes, like “Trial,” that feel like an open toybox adventure, dumping all the action figures onto the rug and having a blast. Sadly, this boy never had a Harley Quinn or a Livewire figure (or a Supergirl, come to think of it), but this would have been a dream of a team-up.

Original Air Date: October 17, 1998

Writer: Hilary J. Bader

Director: Curt Geda

Villains: Livewire (Lori Petty), Harley Quinn (Arleen Sorkin), Poison Ivy (Diane Pershing), and The Penguin (Paul Williams)

Next episode: “Mad Love,” in which life goes looney tunes.

🦇For the full list of The New Batman Adventures reviews, click here.🦇

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